GIVEN Yorkshire teams’ recent derby history, particularly at League One level, fans would be wise to expect the unexpected tomorrow afternoon.
Weekend derby double-headers have been woven into the White Rose footballing tapestry over the past few years and produced many memories in the process – with the likelihood of more to come.
Who can forget Survival Saturday on May 4, 2013 when Huddersfield Town and Barnsley both stayed up amid a ‘love-in’ at the John Smith’s Stadium, a Spring day when Sheffield Wednesday also survived after a final-day Championship victory over Middlesbrough.
Everyone was a winner. Except poor Peterborough, that is.
Tomorrow, four combatants in the third tier take centre stage in the shape of Sheffield United and Barnsley, and Bradford City and Doncaster Rovers. Not forgetting Rotherham United’s first home league clash with Boro since October 1986, a division higher, of course.
At League One level, fluctuating fortunes, spiced by a liberal sprinkling of late goals and dramatic comebacks, have been the order of the day for a plethora of all-Yorkshire clashes since the 2011-12 season when the Blades, Owls and Town were jousting at the top end of the table in an unforgettable campaign that ended in a Wembley dénouement for two and automatic promotion for another.
That season saw Town come from behind to claim an amazing 4-4 draw at Hillsborough thanks to a goal in the seventh-minute of stoppage-time from Jordan Rhodes, who plundered four goals in one of the most remarkable derby virtuoso shows in living memory.
A few months earlier, the late stuff arrived from the Owls, with Chris O’Grady and Gary Madine on target in the final minutes as they came from 2-0 down to claim a point in the Steel City derby at Bramall Lane.
The following season in 2012-13, it was the Blades’ turn to snatch a point from the jaws of defeat with a controversial penalty from Nick Blackman and an 89th-minute strike from Dave Kitson seeing them rally from a two-goal deficit to draw at promotion rivals Doncaster on New Year’s Day 2013.
Stirring comebacks were also the order of the day last season when Bradford shrugged off the concession of two first-half goals to draw 2-2 at Bramall Lane while the Millers, losing 1-0 at the break, sunk the Blades 3-1 to record their first league win over their neighbours since February 1981.
Maintaining the dramatic theme, the visitors claimed a spot of revenge in the reverse fixture at S2 when a hotly-contested 90th-minute penalty from Ben Davies left Steve Evans raging in a 1-0 defeat.
Already in 2014-15, the propensity for drama and late goals has resurfaced.
The first beneficiaries were Barnsley, who cast aside a first-minute concession in their home clash with Bradford on October 12 to triumph 3-1 after inflicting a triple whammy upon the Bantams in the second half, including a late killer third goal.
Six days later the Blades, serial late show exponents under Nigel Clough this term, also netted in the final 10 minutes of the other League One derby to be staged this term, a 2-0 win for the visitors at Bradford.
Phil Parkinson’s troops may have savoured the highs of derby glory against Leeds in the Capital One Cup on August 27, claiming their first home victory over these foes at Valley Parade since March 1932 in the process, but it has been a different story when it comes to the league.
In their six Yorkshire derbies since returning to League One, Bradford have won just once – in what is becoming a lamentable story for the claret-and-amber – whose televised defeats to the Reds and Blades failed to showcase Parkinson’s side at anything like their best.
Derbies may have been nothing to write home about for Bradford, but for Rovers they provided the only succour from relegation last season.
Despite going down, Paul Dickov’s men topped the unofficial Championship league with 16 points from 10 derbies, losing only twice.
That season saw Rovers claim just their second league wins at Hillsborough and Elland Road and only their second league double over the Owls while also going unbeaten in four games against Huddersfield and Barnsley.
How Dickov, under pressure from sections of Rovers’ fans, could do with a rewind of the clock in that respect.
In Yorkshire derby context, 2014 has been a tale of woe for the Reds, aside from their recent win over Bradford, with a late, late loss at Hillsborough, 5-0 humiliation at Huddersfield and a 3-1 defeat at the Riverside being particularly hurtful.
Now they head to Bramall Lane, traditionally not a happy hunting ground – they are seeking their first win in six visits tomorrow.
But given recent derby evidence, perhaps it is best not to assume anything.